During the course of my work, I have often heard people saying the system in this country is not right. As a young reporter, this confused me. The people I spoke to were often important. They mattered and could create a difference. For several years, I wondered why they continued to lament the system’s inadequacies without doing anything to fix it. Then I realised that this lament was the safest cliche they could hide behind. Say it and get rid of all your responsibilities. Fighting against a system or making efforts to change it comes with a price tag. And people here don’t like that. Those who are part of the system, blame it the most. Let me explain.
Several months ago, the Punjab government demanded some land from the province’s largest public sector university, the University of the Punjab. The land was provided to build a road that passes through the university, cutting it into two portions. The road, however, also connects two areas. The land provided for the road was originally for agricultural purposes and as per the master plan of the varsity, shouldn’t have been used for any other task. The university administration, however, said it was being given for a public welfare project and would benefit millions as well as the university. Point understood.
The confusion started when the same Punjab government started acquiring some land from University Town, a housing society where university teachers reside, to build a track of the Orange Line Metro train, a public welfare project worth Rs162 billion. University Town is situated far away from the varsity and the price difference in the value of land is huge. The Academic Staff Association (ASA), an elected body of faculty members supported by the vice chancellor, has been threatening the government through press statements, saying that if any land is taken from their society or any harm is done to any of their houses for the welfare project, there will be agitation.
The ASA has been meeting officials and holding protests to save the housing society, but nobody said a word when university land was acquired by the government to build a road. One wonders why. Is it because the university land was public property and the housing society consists of private property?
Recently, the government, teachers and officials all united in saying that the ban on student associations shouldn’t be lifted in education institutes. At the same time, nobody questions why teacher associations are allowed when student associations are banned. Such double standards are the building blocks of our ‘system’. And when things don’t go as desired, people who determine the ‘system’ start blaming it. Those at the top should stand up and say no to such a system. But why would they do so when the duality and hypocrisy of the system supports their cause?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2016.